New Mexico Clean Buses Fact Sheet

Dirty diesel school buses emit dangerous pollutants that kids breathe into their developing lungs, causing respiratory illnesses, aggravating asthma and exposing youth to cancer-causing pollutants. That’s why Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund’s program Juntos: Our Air, Our Water is calling on Governor Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Environment Department to put the health of our state’s youth and communities first by using the state’s $18 million Volkswagen settlement to fund clean energy, zero-emission electric school buses.

In New Mexico, there are approximately 166,000 kids who ride school buses to over 89 school districts, which serve more than a 300,000 students, over half of whom are Latino, indigenous or black. With so many children exposed to pollution, it’s no coincidence that more than 1 in 11 suffer from asthma.

The Albuquerque area is home to some of the worst ozone pollution in the nation. Two of the counties in the state have failing air quality grades, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report. Across the country, approximately 25 million children take school buses and are exposed to diesel exhaust, which can negatively impact their health. Our children have the right to breathe clean air, and polluting buses shouldn’t endanger them in their pursuit to acquire an education.

What causes unhealthy air?

Diesel vehicles, including school buses, emit large amounts of nitrogen oxide into our atmosphere. This pollution can cause respiratory problems including asthma attacks, which are the leading chronic illness and the number one cause of school absences for children and adolescents.

How is Juntos and CVNM Education Fund taking action?

In 2017, we launched Clean Buses for Healthy Niños to demand zero-emission buses for the nearly 24.7 million miles of school bus routes that crisscross our communities. The children and adults in our communities carry the horrible burden of the pollution that these buses emit. We’re organizing with communities to build the political power necessary to ensure that clean bus fleets become a reality. Together, we can take a stand to let Governor Martinez know that we won’t wait for cleaner air. It’s time for #CleanRide4Kids now. The New Mexico Environment Department is responsible for creating a plan to determine how the state will use the funds and we’re letting our voices be heard.

In New Mexico, Juntos and CVNM Education Fund are focusing its fight on clean school buses for Bernalillo County, home to the largest school district in the state. It’s also the area with the worst outcomes for children at risk for respiratory illness and the greatest exposure to ozone pollution. The League of Conservation Voter also has campaigns across the country. Learn more at www.cleanride4kids.org.

What is the VW settlement for and how much money is available in my state?

The VW settlement allots $2.7 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Fund. This mitigation trust is specifically for states to implement projects that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, and replace diesel with cleaner technologies. New Mexico’s settlement amount was determined by the level of pollution caused by the diesel vehicles that emitted pollutants across the state. New Mexico received its initial $16.9 million in December 2016.

Why the Volkswagen (VW) settlement?

Volkswagen (VW) cheated federal emissions tests, and polluted the air we breathe with toxins emitted by diesel vehicles that increases respiratory illnesses and furthers the effects of climate change.

We believe these funds should be re-invested in initiatives that stand to enhance the air quality of local communities and school districts, especially in low-income and communities of color where students and families are most at risk of breathing dirty air, and are disproportionately suffering from pollution.

What’s the impact of switching from a diesel bus to a zero-emission bus?

Clean buses mean cleaner air and healthier niños and communities. While zero-emissions buses may cost more up front, they cost 30 percent less to maintain than their diesel counterparts, and they reduce greenhouse emissions by almost 80 percent. Every diesel bus replaced with a zero-emission bus is equivalent to taking 27 cars off the road, and can save upwards of $11,000 per year in fuel and maintenance costs.

How can I get involved?

First and foremost, sign the petition to Governor Martinez, and call her office by texting BUSES to 877-877. We’re working with volunteers and promotores to fight for Clean Buses for Healthy Niños. We will get in touch and share ways for you to get involved. For more information contact Molly Sanders, program director at Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund: Molly@cvnm.org.